Fly away

In the midst of several days of rain here in the Washington area, the rain clouds briefly parted to clear the sky for the release of dozens of monarch butterflies.

Let me briefly say that I am in no way complaining about the rain, as I know it’s better than not having any rain.

On the Capitol grounds, lawmakers and other federal officials participated in the release of 50 black and orange butterflies. The purpose of the event was to draw the public’s attention to the declining population of butterflies and other pollinators.

The sponsors of the event—the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus—is a handful of members of Congress who joined together to promote pollinator health.

There is a caucus for just about anything you can think of here in Washington. Though many of them sound a bit hokey, they actually bring together lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle. We need as much of that in this town as we can get these days.

The co-chairs of the caucus are Congressman Jeff Denham, a California Republican; and Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrat.

The first 50 guests received one butterfly each to release. In addition to the butterfly release, each guest walked away with milkweed pods, which can be grown into plants to attract butterflies.

The timing of the release is likely not a coincidence that it falls around the same week as the public comment period closed for the Department of the Interior’s proposed plans to amend the Endangered Species Act.

Environmentalists fear that the proposed changes are harmful to endangered species. The monarch butterfly is currently under review by the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if it should be granted protections as an endangered species.

In 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service began its assessment of the monarch butterfly.

Though not participating in the butterfly release, the families of the president and vice president also have a hand in boosting pollinator populations. Just beside the White House kitchen garden is a pollinator garden, which was planted by former first lady Michelle Obama. First lady Melania Trump has decided to keep the garden.

Across town at the vice president’s residence, second lady Karen Pence last year installed a beehive on the grounds.

“All types of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats, are critical to providing our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine,” Mrs. Pence said at the unveiling of the beehive.

For nearly a dozen years now, the Senate has unanimously approved a week in June as “National Pollinator Week.” This year, it was held June 18 to 24.

According to the Pollinator Partnership website, National Pollinator Week is a “celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.”

The importance of pollinators is easy to overlook, as we often take them for granted, just like we often do for affordable food in this country—but that’s another column for another day.

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.

Sign up for HPJ Insights

Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.